In 1985, amidst a crackdown on dissent, the British Special Air Service (SAS) trained the bodyguards of Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, even as he subverted democracy and established a one-party state in Kenya. Declassified UK documents reveal that the SAS’s involvement was a part of Britain’s broader strategy to maintain Kenya’s pro-Western alignment and stability, regardless of human rights abuses and political repression under Moi’s regime.
- Despite being aware of President Moi’s undermining of democracy and human rights abuses in Kenya, the British SAS was permitted to train his personal bodyguards. The guards were drawn from the General Service Unit (GSU), a police force with a history of allegations of torture and executions.
- Post a failed coup attempt in 1982, Moi enhanced the GSU’s ranks with members of his own minority tribe, the Kalenjin, and engaged SAS for further training, shifting the tribal balance in the force. British aid to Kenya, including £1.5 million in 1983 for police equipment, indirectly supported these operations.
- Moi suppressed dissent, controlled the media, and rigged elections to strengthen his hold over the Kenya African National Union (Kanu), the country’s only permitted political party. This autocratic rule, often involving human rights abuses, was largely ignored by the British government in the interest of geopolitical considerations.
- Despite Kenya’s human rights and democratic issues, the country was the largest recipient of British aid in Africa, receiving £38m in 1985. The British viewed Moi as their staunchest ally in black Africa and aimed to maintain Kenya’s pro-Western alignment.
- These revelations highlight Britain’s foreign policy approach during Moi’s regime, prioritizing strategic alliances and geopolitical interests over the promotion of democratic values and human rights. Despite the repressive nature of Moi’s regime, British officials viewed him as a stern headmaster rather than a tyrant.